Most football fans will spend their time focused on the big European leagues out there. They watch and bet on the English Premier League, Spanish Liga Santander, German Bundesliga, and occasionally dabble in Italian and French markets. Little do they know that football exists outside of these big nations too.
There are countless countries around the world with football leagues for you to follow and bet on. Often, it’s the smaller leagues that represent the best value and more chance of making a profit. Today, I want to introduce you to the world of Maltese football. For those that don’t know, Malta is a small set of islands that lies in the Mediterranean Sea slap bang between Northern Africa and Siciliy in Southern Europe. The national football team competes in UEFA European Football and is yet to qualify for any major event. As of right now, they currently sit at their lowest ranking of 182 in the world. But, they have been in the Top 100 once, reaching a peak of 66 back in 1995.
There’s not a lot that can be said about the national team in Malta. However, there’s plenty to talk about domestically. For the remainder of this piece, I’ll tell you all you need to know about Maltese football. This includes the league setup, biggest sponsors, best teams and some players to watch too. Check out everything down below:
Maltese Football Leagues
Domestic football in Malta has been around since 1909 and has changed multiple times since. The format has altered, the number of teams involved has changed too. Right up until the start of the Second World War, there was only one league in Malta called the Maltese Division One. A few years before the war started the Maltese football federation came up with the idea for a Maltese Football League Trophy to run alongside the Division One championships.
All footballing activity broke off for a few years during the war and then resumed in 1945. One year later and there were huge shakeups seeing the league turn into a tiered system. There were double the amount of teams involved and competition was rife. Fast forward to the present day, and there are now a whopping 53 teams registered. There are four leagues; Maltese Premier League, Maltese First Division, Second Division and Third Division. There are 12 clubs in the top tier, 14 in the Second/Third Division and 13 in the Third. You’ll also see an FA Trophy that’s a knockout format and contested between teams in the top two divisions. If you win the FA Trophy, then you play the winners of the top division in the Maltese Super Cup.
Maltese football has certainly grown since its first season that saw a measly five teams and no cup competitions whatsoever! Interestingly, all of the Maltese football divisions are sponsored by the Bank of Valletta. This is the biggest and main sponsor in the football system in Malta.
The winners of the Premier League get entered into the second qualifying round of the prestigious Champions League. This is a massive deal for these teams as it gives them a chance to play against some of the biggest clubs in Europe. The rest of the top four get entered into the first round of Europa League qualifying.
Most Successful Maltese Teams
Malta has seen many successful teams pass through its ranks over the years. In the early days, Sliema Wanderers and Floriana were the dominant duos of Maltese football. From its inception up until 1940, these two teams were the winners of all but four Maltese Division One championships. In fact, Sliema Wanderers are the most successful team in the country with 26 league titles to their name. However, they’ve struggled in recent years and haven’t won a title since 2005! Likewise, Floriana’s success is something of a distant memory. They dominated back in the day but haven’t recorded a league title win since the 90’s. I guess you could almost call them the Liverpool of Maltese football!
Since 2008 the Premier League title has only been won by three different teams; Valletta, Hibernians, and Birkirkara. Valletta has been around since the early days and even won a title back in 1915. They’re also the current holders of the 2015/16 Premier League title too, which was their 23rd in total, putting them two behind Floriana and three behind Sliema. Hibernians are the fourth most successful club winning 11 titles in their time. Their most recent triumph came two seasons ago when pipped Valletta to the title. Birkirkara is known as the newest force in Maltese football with 4 league titles in the last 16 seasons. They’re always up there with the other two fighting it out for top spot.
In truth, there are few players that have gone on to incredible things from playing in the Maltese league. A lot of the legends like Mario Muscat are unknown by mainstream football fans. Interestingly, Mario is the leading appearance maker in Maltese football, playing a whopping 501 times and counting.
If you’re interested in checking out Maltese football and want some players to keep an eye on, then there’s a strong Brazilian duo to check out. Hibernians striker Jorginho top scored in the 14/15 season and always has a goal in him. Birkirkara forward Johnhatan is also one you should keep your eye on whenever they play. The top scorer in two of the last three seasons was Hibernians Edison before he went out on loan. If he comes back, then he’s definitely one to watch.
You should also keep an eye on the top two scorers from last season; Lydon Micallef and Alfred Effiong. Both play for Balzan who finished fourth in the 15/16 season.
There’s a lot to enjoy about Maltese football and the seasons are usually quite tense. In the last two seasons, there has only been a gap of five points between second and fourth place. It’s competitive, and that means there’s brilliant value for bettors to enjoy too.
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